Croatia Road Trip
During our Croatia road trip, we drove down roads that were actually goat tracks, swam in spectacular waterfalls, ate jet black squid risotto and met some of the friendliest people that we had come across on our European Campervan Trip.
Croatia was a mix of high rises and country roads. Tourist havens and desolate villages. Wide smiles and sad memories.
Even though the Croatian War of Independence (1991-95) ended over twenty years ago, the ramifications still lingered within the hearts of its people. Locals recounted their memories – some with anger and bitterness and some with a solemn sadness. The places we visited on our Croatian road trip were often buzzing with normal everyday life, but as we drove through the country, remnants of abandoned houses and shell damage were clearly visible across the countryside.
We embarked on this Croatia road trip in early June and the weather was already warm. The kind of warmth that warrants having a dip in the ocean to cool down. Luckily Croatia has a beautiful coastline so the sparkling ocean is never too far away.
Along with its beaches, Croatia also boasts several UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites, such as the old city of Dubrovnik, the historic city of Trogir and the Palace of Diocletian complex in Split. Plitvice Lakes National Park, one of our favourite destinations in Croatia and the oldest and largest National Park in Croatia, is also World Heritage-listed.
Croatia Road Trip Map
For details of each place marked on our Croatia road trip map, you can click on the button at the top left-hand corner to view the Key.
To expand the map click on the top right-hand icon.
- The pins marked with a P show where we stayed with the campervan
- The numbered pins are the places we visited in Croatia
- The orange pins are in Bosnia-Herzegovina
Planning your Croatia Road Trip
We’ve organised this road trip across Croatia in the most logical way we could think of in order to help you plan your Croatia itinerary. However, travel isn’t always logical, especially when you are going with the flow and have a motorhome or campervan. Our own Croatia road trip itinerary was done in a different order due to our ad hoc decision making and insurance restrictions with our first rental van.
Hindsight and knowledge are both wonderful things and hopefully, you can benefit from ours. Therefore this itinerary is more practical, time-saving and economical than our original one.
We initially arrived in Split, Croatia, by ferry from Italy. Also, the first time we were in Croatia, we had a rented motorhome of which the insurance wouldn’t allow us to enter Bosnia Herzegovina. Therefore at that time, we couldn’t drive down to Dubrovnik from Split as you need to pass through Bosnia.
So it was on our second half of our ‘Year in the Van‘, that we drove our second rented motorhome (with the insurance that did let us enter Bosnia) back down through Bosnia (popping back into Croatia to visit Dubrovnik), and Albania as we made our way down to Greece.
What to take into account when planning your Croatia Road Trip
So, in planning your own Croatia road trip, it really depends on: where you will be arriving from, the length of time you have to travel through the country and whether your insurance covers you for the relevant country. Use the information in this post to suit your own timeframes and logistics.
Important things to consider:
- Time you have
- Where you arrive from
- Car/motorhome/van insurance
- Visas required
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
What is the best time of year to visit Croatia?
The best time to visit Croatia is in the shoulder-season months of May / June and September/ October. We were there in early June and the weather was warm. and perfect for swimming in the sea. The crowds had just begun and it wasn’t too busy.
In contrast, the peak seasons of July and August see the coastal resorts packed with tourists. The temperatures increase along with accommodation prices.
In low season, November to April, many hotels and attractions along the coast close down for winter. The weather is then more unpredictable and colder. However, this is the perfect time to avoid the crowds and to get great deals on flights and accommodation. We chose the off season to visit the Greek Island, Santorini in winter, and it was amazing to have this tourist haven almost to ourselves.
Drying off after a lovely dip in the ocean – Early June in Split, Croatia
Croatia Road Trip Itinerary
We visited a variety of locations as we drove through Croatia. Some places were crowd magnets and some were more off the beaten path. Our Croatia road trip took about ten days. We have also suggested a detour into nearby Bosnia Herzegovina if you have extra time.
If you do consider the detour, make sure that your travel insurance and vehicle insurance covers Bosnia. Additionally be sure to have all your travel documents, such as passports, vehicle documentation handy when you cross the borders.
Note: Croatia is divided in two in the south by Bosnia-Herzegovina, so you will need to pass through passport control if you travel from Split to Dubrovnik.
Our Croatia Road Trip included the following places – with added details of our campsites.
(We used the Campercontact App which we found the best due to its ease of use, ability to be used offline and because there were plenty of reviews, so we could avoid those sites with a bad rap.)
Places to Visit on Your 10 Day Croatia Road trip
- Plitvice lakes
- Krka National Park
As with any road trip route, your itinerary is lead by the type of activities you enjoy. We love getting out and about in nature – hence our most favourite picks to visit in Croatia would be Krka National Park and Plitvice Lakes.
We also tend to lean away from the bigger cities, but you may want to include the capital Zagreb on your road trip.
If you have more time on your Croatia Road Trip we have included a detour to:
- Mostar in Bosnia Herzegovina
Croatia Road Trip Itinerary
Croatia Road Trip: Plitvice Lakes
We camped at Bear Campsite in Plitvice, and the owner ran a shuttle to Plitvice Lakes every morning. The owners were super friendly and you could help yourself to the cherries growing on the trees.
Plitvice Lakes are Unesco World Heritage Listed and are incredibly beautiful with about 16 lakes all cascading into each other. Plitvice National Park mainly consists of forest and several hiking trails take you around the lakes. There are also shorter walking routes among the lakes and your entry ticket includes a trip on an electric boat.
We spent the day hiking around the lake – which actually took us longer than we thought! Check with the information centre about the time it might take to do certain hikes. Unfortunately, you are not able to swim in the lakes, unlike at Krka National Park.
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Croatia Road Trip: Starigrad
The next stop on our Croatian road trip was at Vila Popo Campsite in Starigrad, (not to be confused with Stari Grad which is a historical old town on the island of Hvar, Croatia). This campsite was really close to the Paklenica National Park, the second oldest National Park in Croatia.
Starigrad stretches for 20kms along the Adriatic Coast and is at the foot of the Velebit Mountains in Paklenica National Park. An ideal location for hiking, cycling and rock climbing.
We cycled to Večka Kula beach and had a cool dip in the ocean. Here you’ll find Večka Kula, an old ruin of a fortification. You will be also be surrounded by beautiful scenery, a small pebble beach and the magnificent Velebit mountain in the background.
Večka Kula, Starigrad, Croatia
Croatia Road Trip: Krka National Park
The numerous cascades on the Krka River intertwine amongst every shade of green you can imagine. Nature embraces you here, and you can do little but be caught in its soothing embrace. This was our favourite destination in Croatia.
When we were there, in early June, hundreds of dazzling dragonflies flitted to and fro around the reeds and water weeds. Their luminescent greens and blues catching the light and shining as brightly as any emerald gems in a jewellers glass case. Unnecessary adornments to their beautiful home of Krka National Park, but enthralling none the less.
I’d seen the Skradinski Buk Falls in magazines and in plenty of photos on Instagram. And here I was, sat in this magical place. As I sat there in the warm sunshine, looking into the crystal clear water below, I felt a surge of gratitude and an intense appreciation of our decision to travel. Because the images in those magazines couldn’t ever capture the real essence of the place. For that, you need to be there and experience the outstanding beauty yourself.
Skradinski Buk Falls, Krka National Park, Croatia
How to Get to Krka National Park
From Starigrad the trip is about an hour or if you are driving from Split the journey takes about one and a half hours.
Finding out which entrance to arrive at in Krka can be a little confusing. The easiest way seems to be the route we took coming off the main road from Split to the Lozovac main entrance. (See map) This is where the tour buses park and there is free parking for visitors.
It is the closest entrance to the main Skradinski Buk falls and as this is the main attraction it’s best to get there first to avoid the crowds.
For details of the four other entrances check out Krka National Park Website, which also gives schedules for ferry times between different parts of the park.
Krka National Park Tickets
We would recommend buying your tickets online to ensure you can get entry, as many of the ticket allocations can be taken up by arranged tours.
Main Places to visit at Krka National Park
Skradinski Buk Waterfall
The main attraction is the Skradinski Buk Waterfall. From the Lozovac main entrance, there is a short walk to the wooden walkway that leads you into the park taking you past small waterfalls, and little inlets which are home to turtles, frogs and, did I mention the dragonflies?
You finally arrive at the big kahuna, Skradinski Buk Waterfall. We were lucky enough to be one of the first arrivals and had the falls to ourselves for a while. You can swim here and a dip in the freezing cold water is quite refreshing.
The next stop we made, was at Visovac Lake. Here, we looked out towards the tiny island upon which sits a Franciscan Monastery dating back to the 14th century. There are boat trips to the island. However, we preferred driving to this great viewing point and looking out onto the lake and seeing the island from afar. Not quite as iconic as the island in the middle of Lake Bled, Slovenia but we thought it was just as eye-catching.
Visovac Lake is the largest expansion of the Krka River and is situated between Roski Slap to the north, and Skradinski Falls to the south. This vast lake is one of the last Mediterranean habitats of the otter. We looked hard but they were hiding too well.
Visovac Lake, Croatia
Our final visit for the day was to Roski Slap or Roski Falls. Not quite as impressive as the Skradinski Falls but beautiful in its own way. Here, you find a main waterfall, about 15 metres high, and then a series of small cascades that the locals call the ‘necklace’.
Dragonflies flitted about in the hundreds here too and I could have stayed the day just watching them and trying to capture a photo … if they would just stay still long enough.
Roski Slap, Croatia
Accommodation Near Krka National Park
We drove up for the day (because we had use of a friend’s apartment in Split) but if you are looking for campsites near the Krka National Park, here are a couple of options:
Alternatively, if your Croatia road trip is by car, check out nearby accommodation deals at Booking.com here.
Croatia Road Trip: Brodarica
We camped at a shady campsite at Brodarica, just about 7km from Sibenik. Brodarica is a peaceful area with rocky beaches and shorelines. There is a lovely walk along the water’s edge and you can also cycle from here to Sibenik. Just be careful of the prolific spiky sea urchins in the ocean.
We cycled into Sibenik, as many of the locals told us that it was magnificent. However, the outskirts were quite shabby and we hadn’t researched it before we went so we didn’t get to see the two UNESCO sites that it is famed for. One is the Cathedral of St. James, built entirely of stone, with a frieze of 71 sculptured faces. The second is the Fortress of St. Nicholas, a triangular-shaped fortress which was used to guard the city.
Croatia Road Trip: Trogir
Trogir is only about a half-hour drive from Split. The UNESCO old town is on a small island accessed by a bridge. Walking around the town, the medieval buildings take you back in time and then as you step back onto the mainland you are gently lulled back to the present day.
Croatia Road Trip: Split
Split was a complete surprise to us. Arriving by ferry from Italy, this was our first visit to Croatia and Split was absolutely nothing like we had envisioned. High rise apartments and an old town bustling with tourists was not an image we had conjured up of this once war-torn country.
There is plenty to do and see here depending on your budget. As low budget travellers, we wandered the old town among the labyrinth of passageways, overshadowed by the impressive UNESCO Diocletian’s Palace around which much of the city’s life is centred. Shops, cafes, bars and homes all create the modern hive of activity alongside the walls of this historical Roman site.
Diocletian’s Palace, Split
You could wander these narrow streets, peruse the markets and watch the world go by in the numerous cafes … or just a short stroll away, you can escape into nature.
At the western side of the city, there are numerous trails and walks in the Marjan Forest Nature Reserve. Here, you walk through pine forests, venture up numerous steps and are treated to fantastic views across Split. Around Marjan Park, which hugs the shoreline, there are several little coves where you can swim in the clear pristine waters.
Split: Small deserted cove we found to swim in
View of Split from Marjan Forest
Old Church in Marjan Forest, Split
Accommodation in Split
If you are looking for accommodation in Split check out the available deals here:
Croatia Road Trip: Dubrovnik
We caught a boat from our campsite at Matovica, The campsite owner checked the times for us and it seemed somehow appropriate to arrive in this city by sea. Yes, we are Game of Thrones fans, so landing at the fictional fortified city of ‘King’s landing’ gave us a slight thrill.
The old city walls and glimpses of familiar scenes from Game of Thrones are certainly big attractions of this well-visited city. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to arrive early (as we normally like to do when we visit high tourist areas) and so were caught up in a huge wave of tourists.
Wandering around an ancient city never seems quite so enthralling when you are shoulder to shoulder with an unfamiliar crowd. I like to have some quiet contemplation and imagine what life was back when these ancient ramparts were new. Not so easy to do with a throng of eager visitors all vying for the perfect selfie pose. Nevertheless, the old town was intriguing.
Dubrovnik Tickets and Tours
A popular day trip by bus from Dubrovnik is to Kotor in neighbouring Montenegro. If you take this bus, from Dubrovnik, the best views are on the right, according to travel blogger Cassie who outlines what to expect on the Kotor to Dubrovnik bus.
Check out TripAdvisor for more Dubrovnik activities, tours, tickets and day trip options.
Croatia Road trip: Detour to Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Only about two and half hours from Split, lies Mostar, in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is the perfect detour on your Croatia road trip.
We stayed at a great campsite with a particularly friendly owner who will drive you to Mostar and also pick you up when you are ready.
Mostar’s main attraction is the photographic Stari Most, the UNESCO old bridge that spans the Neretva River. Divers will tout for money whilst stood on the bridge for you to see them jump into the depths below. The old town has narrow cobblestone streets lined with cafes and gift shops. Further out from the old town, you will find derelict, bullet-ridden buildings standing as stark reminders of the Bosnia War (1991-95).
Driving Tips for Your Croatia Road trip
- In Croatia you drive on the right.
- Seatbelts are compulsory
- Have the following documents to hand:
- Drivers licence (An international driver’s licence isn’t required)
- Vehicle insurance
- Vehicle registration document
- You are also required to have the following in your vehicle:
- Reflective Vest
- Warning triangle
- First Aid Kit
- Headlamp beam deflectors for left-hand car vehicles (Depending on your car, you will either need deflector stickers or have to adjust the beam manually)
- Lights – Vehicles must have their passing lights (dipped headlights) on at night and in case of bad visibility. These lights must also be switched on during the day in winter, from the last Sunday in October to the last Sunday in March.
- It is compulsory to carry spare bulbs for the vehicle; this does not apply if the vehicle is fitted with xenon, neon, LED or similar lights.
- The main motorways have tolls. To avoid them you can program your navigator to avoid tolls.
- Speed Limits are as follows unless otherwise signposted
- 130 km/h (80 mph) on motorways
- 90 km/h (50 mph) on National roads
- 50 km/h (31 mph) in urban areas.
- You can download an app on to your smartphone for Croatia Traffic info and you can also find out about the traffic conditions/ road works etc. at this website
- Download a brochure about safe driving in Croatia.
Croatia Road Trip: Good to Know
1. Our Top 3 Picks not to miss on your Croatia Road Trip
- Krka National Park
- Plitvice National Park
2. Miscellaneous Useful Tips for Croatia
- The currency used in Croatia is Kuna.
- The emergency number is 112
- Basic words: Dober dan (Good day), Hvala (Thank you), Da (Yes) Ne (No)
3. Croatia Roadtrip Motorhome / Campervan Rental
For motorhome/ campervan rental we recommend the Motorhome Republic as they were so helpful to us and find the best deal in the country you require your campervan or motorhome.
If you are driving a motorhome for the first time check out our post, Motorhome Tips for Beginners
4. Croatia Road Trip Rental Car
For car rentals check out the best prices here.
5. Croatia Road Trip Accommodation
If you are looking for accommodation check out Booking.com Deals here:
Check your Visa Requirements
More Ideas for Road tripping in Europe
This Croatia road trip was just a small part of our 12-month campervan road trip through Europe. See our Europe in a Campervan post for campervan travel tips, more of our route through Europe (interactive map included), our campervan campsites and the attractions we visited.
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Book Your Accommodation
We use Booking.com as we can find a variety of cheap and budget accommodation such as local guesthouses and cheap hotels.
We also use Airbnb – Get up to €46 credit for your first Airbnb stay when you use our Airbnb link
Travel Gear and Accessories
We’ve been on the road for almost three years now and have added useful items to our Lifejourney4two page on Amazon
We use Rentalcars.com to find the best car rental deals.
if you are looking for a motorhome or van rental – we highly recommend the Motorhome Republic who can find the best deals worldwide.
Flexible Accommodation Options/ Or Finding someone to look after your pets
We often use house/petsitting as it really makes our travels much more affordable – as accommodation is FREE